7 Tips to Keep Your Dog Waggin’ While on a Budget

Holiday meals. Entertaining. Gift purchases. Donations to charities. Buying trees and decorations. Getting the right outfit. The right hair. The right manicure, if that’s your thing. Even the tax bill. The holidays are “ruff” on your wallet. Did you know that when it comes to your four-legged BFF, the financial outlay for trimmings isn’t necessary? The dog whisperer Cesar Millan says that if you really want to give your dog the best gift for the holidays you will keep the home front serene:

“Your dog will most appreciate calmness and consistency, especially at this time of year when everything can go a little crazy with holiday planning and with the holidays themselves.”  —Cesar Millan

Making ends meet isn’t always easy these days and spending money you don’t have, unnecessarily on your dog during the holidays, isn’t going to help. Don’t get me wrong, you need to take care of your wagger’s basic medical, wellness and emotional needs always. Having a dog is a financial commitment after all, and it is not cheap. Recently, CNBC reported that the average cost of owning a dog over its lifetime is roughly $21,000 to $43,000 as compared to the amount owners thought they would spend which was roughly $1,300 to $6,500. That’s a heck of a lot of doe!

It’s important that you take good care of us waggers because we’re sentient beings and part of your family. We depend on you. Taking good care of our health and well being all-year round through preventative measures and keeping things calm and consistent can enrich your life immeasurably. Takin’ care of our health and wellness along the way can also impact your bottom line in a positive direction by potentially minimizing your canine healthcare outlay. Dogs are both an emotional and financial investment. While the numbers put a hard value on cost of ownership, what they don’t reveal is your return—a relationship that’s priceless.

The good news is that you can prepare and budget, even when it comes to your dog costs—that way if a rainy day does come for your little wagger, maybe it’ll feel like a financial sprinkle instead of a full-blown hurricane. In the mean time, there are tricks to help you optimize your cash flow.

As you leap headlong into the holiday spree, enjoy it. Despite all of the commercialism and the hubbub, do your best to remember the heart of the matter. Make quality connections with others count—that includes your wagger!

January will come soon enough. When you inevitably tighten your belt in all kinds of ways in the coming months, consider these tips that can help keep your dog waggin’ on a budget.

Dog care tips on a budget

  1. DIY Dog Gear (Beds, Toys & More)­
    Rover.com has a few tricks up their sleeve with DIY Dog Toys You Can Make for Free; HGTV has a great recipe for a DIY dog bed; The point here is there is a lot you can do on your own for less, especially if you are a crafty sort!
  2. DIY Training
    There are scads of training classes and articles, free online, and books at the library to help you train your wagger. Consistency is key. Get on a regular practice schedule, to begin with, two-three times a day for fifteen minutes each. I recommend checking out Cesar Millan, Zak George, and Brian Kilcommons who all have excellent resources online.
  3. Dog Food, DIY & Deals
    According to The Bark Magazine, you can feed your dog with a homemade meal for a little less than half the cost of some of the higher end dog food. A little caution here, as dog digestive systems are different than humans, so it’s critical to do your homework and also consider special nutritional needs due to medical conditions. Check out my article Food for Thought as a start. If you are going for a commercial brand, make sure you carefully check the ingredients list and make sure it is a healthy choice first. If you are going commercial, spending a little more on the food may save you on health difficulties down the road. Still, there is no need to break the bank. Choose a brand that you can afford and is healthy for your pet. Buying in bulk can often save you a little. Some brands and pet food stores have additional frequent buyer savings. The Krazy Coupon Lady has a few suggestions in 11 Pet Loyalty Programs that Help You Save.
  4. Veterinary Advice without the Clinic Visit
    Ask.Vet has a monthly $9.99 subscription service that gives you unlimited texting access to US licensed veterinarians whenever you need it. Ask as many or as few questions as you like over your membership term. The vets at Ask.Vet will give you expert advice on what to do regarding the health of your pet—they will tell you when you need to make an appointment to visit your regular vet clinic or get your dog to an emergency clinic, or if there are things you can do at home to help your dog feel better instead. One subscription fee covers one pet in a household and not just dogs. You can buy an Ask.Vet subscription for a loved-one with a dog, too, it’s a great, thoughtful holiday gift.
  5. Exercise Is FREE!
    A walk costs nothing, and it’s good for both of you.
  6. DIY Grooming
    Give your dog a bath at home or if you have a little extra money, there are DIY grooming places. You can use their space, gear and supplies for a much lower fee than a groomer would charge you to do the same job. Nail trimming is a fairly small fee, but you can skip it if you learn how to do it yourself. If you decide to do it yourself, make sure you get schooled in doing it right. If you cut too deep you can hit a vein and it is super painful for your dog—If that happens, it will be a long-time coming before your dog lets a clipper get near ‘im again.
  7. Pet Insurance & Care Credit
    Consider getting your pet on an insurance plan. Sure, that is adding to the monthly outlay, but it can save big in the long run—a stitch in time saves nine. When serious medical conditions arise for your wagger, it takes the financial stress way down. Take for example, my buddy Jackson. Jackson is a boxer, and he just had knee surgery. The bill came to 8,000 smackeroos and his human got reimbursed for $7200 of ‘em because they had pet insurance. In the end, pet insurance means that you won’t be put in the tough spot of making an emotional decision because you are limited on finances when the medical sh** hits the fan. You can also check out Care Credit. Care Credit is a medical credit card and sometimes it’s interest free for 12 or 18 months and can cover out-of-pocket expenses that your insurance won’t cover. Care Credit can not only be used for pet medical, but also human medical and human dental when money is tight.

Sure, pets can be expensive—sometimes more than you think—but with a little forthought, planning, ingenuity and the proper resources in place, you can bring those expenses down, sometimes significantly, and optimize your financial breathing room.

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